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Resolute shuts down Augusta, Georgia newsprint mill
AUGUSTA, Ga. (From news reports) -- Resolute Forest Products said Thursday it is "indefinitely idling" its Augusta newsprint mill effective immediately, leaving 160 employees without work.

Employees had been off the job since early October when the mill was temporarily idled to offset declining demand for newsprint paper. The mill underwent intermittent shutdowns earlier in 2019.

Company spokeswoman Debbie Johnston said the likelihood the mill would be restarted anytime soon is slim, given the newsprint sector's "continued, challenging market conditions."

"Resolute management understands the impact this decision will have on employees, their families and the local community," she said.

The operation, formerly known locally as Augusta Newsprint, was built in 1966. The mill on Doug Barnard Parkway shipped newsprint to customers globally, but about 80 percent of its business was in the Southeastern U.S.

The mill was once one of Richmond County's largest industrial taxpayers and Georgia Power's second-largest electric consumer in the state.

Johnston said affected employees will be offered outplacement assistance and opportunities at other Resolute facilities.

"Those discussions are taking place," she said.

Five years ago the mill built a $30 million replacement woodyard designed to make the operation just south of Augusta Regional Airport more efficient. The bulk of the costs were in new cranes, conveyors and a mill chipper. The expansion converted the mill to a solely thermomechanical pulping process using virgin Southern pine trees, eliminating the process that recycled waste paper.

The company idled one of the mills' two paper machines in 2016, eliminating 95 jobs and reducing 189,000 metric tons of capacity.

Resolute Forest Products' before-tax earnings fell 46 percent during the 12-month period ending Sept. 30. It reported a net loss for the quarter of $43 million, or $0.47 per share, compared to net income of $117 million, or $1.25 per diluted share, in the same period in 2018.

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